Ben Proud To Diversify Training After Tokyo 2021 For ISL Focus With 2028 Olympics On The Radar

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Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Former world 50m butterfly champion Ben Proud will diversify after Tokyo 2021 to become “an ISL swimmer” while also extending his career to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Proud was part of the Energy Standard squad that won the inaugural International Swimming League with victory in the grand final at the Mandalay Bay Conference Centre, Las Vegas.

Energy Standard – based in Gloria, Turkey – trailed London Roar going into the men’s skins – back-to-back, knockout races with the two remaining swimmers in a head-to-head battle.

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Ben Proud & Florent Manaudou: Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Proud made it out of the opening round along with Energy team-mate Florent Manaudou with the Frenchman propelling them to victory by reaching the head to head with Caeleb Dressel, who had lowered Manaudou’s world record to 20.24 the previous day.

Such was the effect of the competition on Proud that he resolved to adapt his training in order to be more competitive in the ISL while also retaining his world and Olympic focus through to 2028 when he will be 33 years old.

Proud told Swimming World:

“By deciding to just become a 50 swimmer it meant that I’m going to struggle with these types of events quite a lot.

“When I made that decision ISL wasn’t even a thing so it wasn’t really a question that I wanted to focus on the 50s so I can do well in the Olympics.

“Now it has become a thing I’ve decided that after the Olympics I’ll change my training to become an ISL athlete, an ISL swimmer.

“I’ll do my training to be competitive in the competition and if that means swimming more metres or doing a bit more hard work for the skins and the 100s then that’s something I’m ready to do.

“With the Olympics being a year later that’s all coming a year later so it will be after 2021 that I think I’ll start to change my training a little bit and focus on those events.”

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Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

He added:

“I will change my training to be better in the ISL but I will also still focus on the worlds and Olympics.

“In terms of being an athlete over the next four to eight years, you have to be quite diverse.

“The training I am doing now is very much suited to the one event and the one event per competition so I think it could do me some good to change my focus and to do some high-end yardage and harder work.

“I am very much looking forward to racing in Paris in 2024 and maybe even 2028 so still both are definitely in my sights.”

The ISL have announced their plans for the Solidarity Programme – which will fully fund all 320 swimmers in the league for 10 months leading up to Tokyo – as well as a five-week camp for all 10 teams in October-November for training and competition.

Given we know nothing about what to expect for the coming months in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, the camp comes as welcome news for swimmers.

Proud said:

“From what I understand everyone who is competing at the ISL will be there at the same time.

“I am excited for it because I was a bit unsure what would happen with the ISL season being now another Olympic season.

“I’ve seen the work they’ve done behind the scenes and I know how much effort has gone into it – so the fact they’ve changed it for the athletes’ well-being and their training has been very nice to hear.

“It’s definitely something I would do as long as safety wise it’s okay to travel. It’s definitely my plan and we are going to be training towards it until we know that It can or can’t happen.”

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Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Proud left his Gloria training base on 16 March along with coach James Gibson and team-mate Georgia Davies, the 10-time European medallist and backstroke specialist with the trio heading back to Britain.

The 25-year-old is spending lockdown with mum Sally, brother Oliver and Oliver’s partner Charity in Plymouth, south-west England.

It is the first time Proud has lived with his mother since he was 16 when he left the family home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to head for Plymouth College where he combined education with swim training under Jon Rudd, now Swim Ireland’s national performance director.

Proud then moved on to the University of St Mark & St John in Plymouth before heading to Energy Standard in February 2017 and months later won the world 50 fly title in Budapest, Hungary, as well as 50 free bronze.

Since then he has won Commonwealth and European 50 free titles, going 21.11 in the semis at the latter, the sixth fastest-time in history.

Proud is the second-quickest man in textile in history behind only Dressel and his 21.03 with the pair the only two in the all-time top 10 alongside those who donned the shiny suits in 2008 and 2009.

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Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

For Proud, who was fourth at Rio 2016, returning to Plymouth brings a sense of coming full circle as he acknowledges, saying:

“When I decided to start swimming Plymouth was the first place I came to after maybe not even a year of being what I’d call a swimmer.

“It changed my life working with Jon Rudd and all my coaches here.

“It made a big, big change to my life and that led on to Turkey which changed my life further but this was kind of the starting point and since me leaving for Turkey my mum has bought a place down in Plymouth because it’s a nice place to be so now I always have a place to go when I return.

“I left home at 15, 16 and since then I’ve kind of been doing my best to look after myself – obviously with the help of my family.

“I’ve taken swimming into my own hands which means I’ve taken my life into my own hands and now it’s quite nice to spend some time with family.”